Donald Trump’s acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire, appears to be hiding something. Congressman Adam Schiff wants to know what it is.
On Sept. 13, Schiff, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, issued a subpoena demanding that Maguire, a former US Navy vice admiral appointed by Trump in August, turn over a whistleblower complaint filed last month by an unidentified member of the US intelligence community (IC). The complaint’s existence was recently brought to Schiff’s attention by the intelligence community’s inspector general (IG), who told Congress it is a matter of “urgent concern.”
Schiff, a California Democrat, maintains that Maguire has improperly withheld the complaint, which Schiff says involves “potentially privileged communications by persons outside the Intelligence Community.” In a letter sent along with the subpoena (pdf), Schiff says he learned that “the underlying conduct relates to an area of active investigation by the Committee.”
This, according to Schiff, raises “grave concerns that your office, together with the Department of Justice and possibly the White House, are engaged in an unlawful effort to protect the President and conceal from the Committee information related to his possible ‘serious or flagrant’ misconduct, abuse of power, or violation of law.”
In a statement released yesterday, Schiff wrote:
A Director of National Intelligence has never prevented a properly submitted whistleblower complaint that the IC IG determined to be credible and urgent from being provided to the congressional intelligence committees. Never. This raises serious concerns about whether White House, Department of Justice or other executive branch officials are trying to prevent a legitimate whistleblower complaint from reaching its intended recipient, the Congress, in order to cover up serious misconduct.
In the letter to Maguire, Schiff says the committee does not know whether the decision to keep the letter from Congress was made solely by Maguire or if it “involved interference by other parties, including the White House.” Because of Trump’s “improper…efforts to influence your office and the Intelligence Community,” Schiff fears that something highly improper may be afoot.
Maguire’s excuse for withholding the whistleblower complaint—that it contains confidential and potentially privileged communications—is a “radical distortion” of the relevant statute that “completely subverts the letter and spirit of the law,” Schiff’s letter continues, adding that the Director of National Intelligence does not have the authority to “review, appeal, reverse, or countermand” a decision by the IC IG. In this case, that decision was the IC IG’s directive for Maguire to forward the mysterious whistleblower complaint to Congress.
“The Committee can only conclude, based on this remarkable confluence of factors, that the serious misconduct at issue involves the President of the United States and/or other senior White House or Administration officials,” the missive concludes.
Trump, for his part, has used juvenile slurs in the past to attack Schiff for perceived slights.
So funny to see little Adam Schitt (D-CA) talking about the fact that Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker was not approved by the Senate, but not mentioning the fact that Bob Mueller (who is highly conflicted) was not approved by the Senate!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 18, 2018
Maguire’s office said it received Schiff’s subpoena on Friday.
“We received the HPSCI’s subpoena this evening. We are reviewing the request and will respond appropriately,” a senior intelligence official told Politico. “The ODNI and Acting DNI Maguire are committed to fully complying with the law and upholding whistleblower protections and have done so here.”
Sign up for the Quartz Daily Brief, our free daily newsletter with the world’s most important and interesting news.
More stories from Quartz: